Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Pezotettix lakinus S.H. Scudder, 1878, described from Lakin, Kansas and Pueblo, Colorado
Melanoplus lakinus (Scudder) Scudder, 1897
Melanoplus marculentus Scudder, 1897, described from Sierra de San Miguelito, ne. San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Melanoplus sonorae Scudder, 1897, near northern boundary of Sonora, Mexico
Very common species of the western US and northern Mexico. Variable in color and pattern. Somewhat stocky, and sually short-winged. In most of it's range it is the only common short-winged species and becomes very familiar to those observing Grasshoppers, but it can be confused with several other species on occasion. The appendages and sclerites at the end of the male abdomen are the surest way to identify them. Females can look like several other species, but the pattern will be similar to associated males, and usually the pattern on the hind legs is useful. In most of the region where it occurs, other short-winged species look distinctly different or occur mostly at higher elevations in the mountains. However, in the eastern Great Plains, and in Mexico this becomes less true.
Wings usually short, about length of pronotum, but longer in some individuals, and some have fully developed long wings and can fly. Prozona+mesozona of pronotum (part in front of main rear-most sulcus or cross-groove) distinctly longer than metazona (the part behind). Coloration is usually grays, browns, or greens, but occionally there is much yellowish, reddish, or purplish pigment. Usually there is a contrasting (though often broken) dark band running back from eye along top of lateral lobes of thorax. Usually it stops of becomes less bold at the principal sulcus of the pronotum (junction of "prozona" and "metazona"), and may be entirely poorly developed in some individuals (especially females). The dark lateral band often picks up again and continues along the sides of the abdomen, where it is most often interrupted at each segment (the resulting dark spots may join over the back to form dark bands or "rings" on the front half of each segment). However these dark abdominal markings may also be totally lacking on the abdomen (except there is almost always some blackish pattern just before the tip of the abdomen on the top and sides). Often there is a wide darkish (but fuzzy-edged) band down the middle of the head and pronotum above, leaving two paler narrow stripes along each side on top; these may continue along the tegmina. Tegmina are usually pointed and overlapping above the abdomen (except in long-winged individuals not pointed). They are often lighter on top (when folded) than on the sides. The plura of the thorax (sides) usually alternate contrastingly between dark and nearly white. The hind tibiae usually have prominent dark bars across the top, but these usually ill-defined on inner and outer faces (when present, strongly diagonal on out face). Inner face usually yellowish with the lower part orange or reddish. "Knee" with upper part usually black and lower part blue (especially on inner face), with the black often forming roughly a crescent shape around the blue. Hind tibiae blue (or at least bluish) with spines black or black-tipped.
The males are distinctive in having the cerci nearly round, with a lobe on the upper side near the tip that bends inward over the tip of the abdomen. The furculae are present but relatively short and roughly finger-shaped. No other species in it's range has this type of cerci.
Structurally most similar is M. tuberculatus
, which is long-winged, has the pronotum cut near the middle, usually yellowish hind tibiae, and the male cerci similar, but with the base narrower and the lobe wider and less abrubtly narrowed.
Not found west into the Great Basin nor beyond Arizona. M. rileyanus in California is very similar, but averages smaller with shorter wings, and is slightly different in appearance.
Very common in much of the West, approximately from Wyoming to Minnesota, Texas, Arizona, and southward well into Mexico.
Its distribution is largely limited to disturbed areas vegetated by preferred host plants of kochia, Russianthistle, and other weeds. It is absent or rare in prairies in good condition, but it thrives in weedy rangeland.
In 1959, Arizona populations of the migratory and Lakin grasshopper infested weedy rangeland and together averaged 20 to 50 adults per square yard.
Weedy city lots provide favorable breeding areas from which the grasshoppers may move into vegetable and flower gardens.
Feeds preferentially on plants in the goosefoot family, Chenopodiaceae. Native host plants include species of Atriplex (saltbush) and probably species of other genera in this family.
Populations of the Lakin grasshopper often increase to high densities.
Near La Junta, Colorado on 4 July 1996, nymphs (III to V instars) numbered 91 per square yard.
Source for the above info
- Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station
The original description may be seen here in the Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History
, vol. 20, p. 79-80.